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Faith leaders, performers gather in McHenry County to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

Speakers push for social justice, stepping outside of one's comfort zone

CRYSTAL LAKE – Hope lingered in the air Monday morning at D’Andrea Banquets and Conference Center as an assortment of speakers and performers channeled the work of Martin Luther King Jr.

Speakers ranging from the Rev. Zina Jacque of Community Church of Barrington – a holder of four degrees, including a doctorate and two master’s – to Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 eighth-grader Autumn Chase graced the stage with remarks on King’s influence and how to best implement it in modern times.

Jacque spoke of seeking out others for help and advice, even if they see things differently, and to step out of one’s comfort zone in all areas of life.

“I want to be really clear – rugged individualism and self-dependence is, in part, what isolates us,” Jacque said. “[It’s] what keeps us apart. And let me go even further. If all your partners look like you do, that’s another problem. If all your partners think like you do, there’s another problem. If all your partners agree with you, pray for them.”

The eighth annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Prayer Breakfast was hosted by FaithBridge, a member of the North American Interfaith Network.

Chase was the winner of FaithBridge’s essay contest, which asked middle school students to write 300 to 350 words responding to questions revolving around this year’s theme, “conditions of hope.” Chase won $50, two tickets to the breakfast and the opportunity to read her essay at the event. She received a standing ovation after concluding her speech.

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable,” Chase said. “You must work for what you believe in.”

Chase’s essay explored what happens “when good people are silent about injustice.”

“Many think that being brave is not saying anything – not taking an aggressor’s bait. But they are wrong,” Chase said. “Being brave in the cause of justice means standing up for your beliefs and not letting others speak for you.”

The contrast of King’s famous words pushing for racial equality, compared with President Donald Trump’s recent remarks about immigrants from other mostly black nations, was not lost on those in attendance.

Jacque, the keynote speaker at the event – which was filled with people of all racial and faith backgrounds – said she rewrote the start of her speech numerous times after news of Trump’s comments broke.

“All I can tell you is that as I reduced down the emotion I’ve felt since Thursday is that the place I end up is – I refuse to give up hope. I refuse to give up hope,” Jacque said. “And let’s be clear, hope is the confident expectation of the coming good.”

As a nonprofit formed in 2007, FaithBridge uses a variety of programs, gatherings and educational opportunities to bring together people of differing traditions to learn about each other’s faiths, find common ground, “and create something beautiful and unique that ties us all together as believing human beings,” according to the organization’s website.

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